Ailing veteran Suchitra Sen, who is currently recovering at a super-specialty hospital in Kolkata following a respiratory tract infection, requested for a visitor for the first time in over three decades recently.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has become the only public personality in the last 35 years to have met the infamously reclusive actress Suchitra Sen.
Sources close to the 82-year-old screen goddess, who is often compared to Hollywood legend Greta Garbo for being a recluse, said that since 1978 only a handful of people have seen her face-to-face.
Sen's granddaughter-actress Raima Sen agreed that Banerjee is the only public personality who has been able to meet her grandmother, now recovering in the Belle Vue hospital following respiratory tract infection.
"It is very rare that she meets someone outside her family. So this was a very rare occasion," said Sen's close friend Gopal Roy adding that she met Banerjee out of respect for the chief minister.
Raima said she has "no idea" what made her grandmother meet the CM.
On Friday, the chief minister had visited Belle Vue Clinic where Sen is admitted but went away without meeting the actress.
When Sen learnt about CM's visit, she expressed the desire to meet her after which Banerjee rushed to the hospital and met her personally for around 25 minutes.
"I am undoubtedly fortunate enough to get an opportunity to meet her in person. I am overwhelmed and proud to meet the legendary actress whose films we have seen so many times. It is an emotional moment," Banerjee wrote on her Facebook page later.
After her 1978 movie Pronoy Pasha with Soumitra Chatterjee flopped, Sen disappeared from the public eye and reportedly even refused the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005 to avoid a public appearance.
Sen stays confined to her south Kolkata apartment and hardly anyone outside her close circuit has seen her in the last three decades.
Old-timers recall that when Bharat Maharaj of the Ramakrishna Mission passed away in 1989, she had walked barefoot at Belur Math, near Kolkata.
"The only other time she was seen in public was when she went out to vote," Roy said. Even whenever she is admitted to a hospital, a tight security is maintained so that no one can
click a photograph or even see her face.
Her reason of withdrawal from public life, however, remains a mystery.
Having acted in 52 Bengali and seven Hindi films for three decades, Sen is remembered for memorable roles in films like Devdas and Aandhi, Saat Paake Bandha, Agnipariksha, Saptopadi and Deep Jele Jai.